The most colorful and most beautiful petrified wood in the world is found in the northeastern part of Arizona. The Petrified Forest National Park, an area of 147 square miles, is twenty-four miles east of Holbrook, Arizona. Hike into remote wilderness areas to photograph strange formations that are off the paved roads and the marked trails. Photograph colorful expanses of the Painted Desert from the highest overlooks in the northern reaches of the park and large log jams of brilliantly-colored tree trunks washed into ancient seas. The petrified logs date back 225 million years. The Indian ruins and petroglyphs date back 1,000 years.
Zion Canyon is a great destination for nature photography in the Southwest. Wildflowers and cactus blossoms bloom in the spring, and autumn color comes out in the fall. Here are the best spots to explore during each of the four seasons in Zion. Discover the best trails to the high overlooks and the hidden side canyons. Explore Clear Creek Canyon for great autumn color. Hike up the Virgin River Narrows to photograph one of the deepest slot canyons in the world. Explore the Kolob Canyons on the west side of Zion. Discover overlooks at Bryce Canyon plus the locations of the best sunrise and sunset spots in both national parks.
California’s Sacramento River Delta flows into the San Francisco Bay to form the largest estuarine ecosystem on the entire west coast of both North and South America. Scattered along the shoreline of San Francisco and the Delta are many wildlife refuges and ecological preserves covering much of the shoreline. From November through January, millions of water birds arrive from their northern breeding grounds to feed in the marshes. Some of the refuges are remote, and others fill the spaces between the waters of the bay and populated communities. Here are places to photograph San Francisco Bay Area wildlife.
One of the most popular summer destinations for east coast vacationers is a great place for nature photographers during the off-season. Cape Cod has picturesque beaches, rustic fishing harbors, deep forests and abundant wildlife. Photograph classic New England villages and gray-shingled beach cottages on remote Atlantic headlands. You’ll have the beaches and trails to yourself and you’ll discover more photographic opportunities. This newsletter has information on the best time of day, recommended lenses, and the most convenient areas to stay.
Discover the best of the panoramic views of San Francisco’s Golden Gate. Winding across the steep and rolling headlands of Marin County, the Coastal Trail climbs to viewpoints of The City, framed by green hills and then crosses the Golden Gate Bridge and follows the surf along Baker Beach. The trail winds through dense forests of cypress and eucalyptus to some great viewpoints on Lands End before reaching Seal Rocks. You’ll find the best panoramic landscapes along the wide, sandy Ocean Beach south, through the Golden Gate Park to Fort Funston.
West of Lake Powell and north of the Grand Canyon, in a remote desert wilderness area, are the Coyote Buttes. Scattered across a bizarre red sandstone landscape are sculptured formations. The largest concentration of these stone patterns are on the Utah-Arizona border. Flat sandstone plateaus crisscross with knee-high stone fins. Included are directions to an area of balancing mushroom rocks near Glen Canyon Dam. Striped sandstone, weather-worn and eroded into sensuous curves, are great nature images.
In the middle of a vast desert they call badlands in northwestern New Mexico is a remote wilderness protected by the Navajo Nation and the BLM. Called Ah-shi-sle-pah, the unpronounceable Navajo term for grey salt, this vast geological fantasyland has not been promoted in any travel magazines I’ve seen and is hard to find, located at the end of a rough road and a long walk. I was the only person out there during my four-day stay and the silence was wonderful. Tall stone pedestals balance flat caps like giant mushrooms.
The mountainous western region of the state of Massachusetts is called the Berkshires. Hardwood forests in the higher elevations across the northern parts of the Berkshires typically start to turn red and yellow in early October. Forests at lower elevations across the southern parts of the Berkshires may reach their peak color during the third or fourth week of October. All photographers looking for new and different New England autumn color images should add the Berkshires to their calendars.
Stovepipe Wells dunes, Zabriskie Point, and Badwater are some of the best places to set up a tripod at sunrise. The mysterious sliding rocks on the Racetrack must be photographed. Dante’s View, Ubehebe Crater, and Titus Canyon should be on the list of any visiting photographer. A single creosote bush at the base of a dune at sunrise or a stone on the edge of a salt pond at sunset can also inspire a photographer to create unique images of Death Valley. Photograph all the icons, the postcard views, but stay long enough to drive some back roads and hike a few desert trails. Be out there at sunrise and sunset and the desert light will inspire you. Death Valley is a wonderful winter destination for nature photographers.
In mid-winter, the sun never reaches over the south rim of the valley. Snowdrifts pile up at the base of the cliffs. Trees on the south side of the valley that are frosted with an overnight snow can remain coated with ice all day. Directly across the Merced River from El Capitan is a wide meadow covered with young cedars. When the morning sun reflects off the bronze-colored granite wall of El Capitan, it casts a golden glow across the meadow and lights the snow-frosted cedars. It’s a magical place for a few days each winter. In mid-winter, ice-covered ponds on the meadows become fantasies of crystals and reflections in the early morning when the rising sun bounces off canyon walls. You will find the same reflections at the end of the day, but the ice will have melted. In the morning, the trees are wearing a coat of fresh snow. The sky is usually clear and intensely blue. I like to start my day in Yosemite on the valley meadows and end it on the valley overlooks.
Notes and images from Bob Hitchman.